There was a time when this seemed impossible: 54 hockey teams from Ontario and Quebec battle it out in a women’s tournament.
But this weekend, it’s a reality in Montreal, thanks to Olympic gold medalist Caroline Ouellet.
When Ouellette first stepped onto the ice at the age of 9, she was the only girl on her team. Today, the rink she played on as a child now bears her name.
And this year, for the first time, everyone on the ice attending a hockey tournament is female, including the officials.
“It’s really becoming a reality to have more girls playing hockey so they can experience all the fun I’ve felt throughout my career,” Ouellette told CTV National News.
“For me, young girls and young women know they can be anything they want to be.”
The tournament, officially known as the Caroline Ouellette Girls Hockey Celebration, begins Thursday and will run until Sunday. Girls from 5 to 12 years old will have the opportunity to compete against each other.
But Ouellette isn’t the only one with Olympic experience to put their energies into the tournament.
After the whistle, Canadian referee Gabrielle Ariano-Lortie is now showing the ropes to new referees, hoping they will dream big, just like she did.
“Some people helped me,” says Ariano-Lortie. “They’ve helped me a lot, so I want to give that back, there aren’t many women who do that, who’ve been to the Olympics or higher.”
“I want the girls to go to the NHL and compete and become a full-fledged player.”
The NHL didn’t have any women in attendance, but the American Hockey League saw 10 women compete officially this season for the first time.
While there is a lot to celebrate, there are still steps to be taken.
“That’s what upsets me the most about my sport, which is that after all these years, we still don’t have a professional women’s hockey league where women can make a living playing hockey, ‘ said Ouellette.
For now, these future stars are simply doing what they love, proving they have what it takes to become a league of their own.